Local food business expansion is a theme for discussion and learning at this year's Iowa Local Food Conference. Keynote speakers and panels will highlight the growing number of opportunities available to food producers in their local networks. Conference attendees may participate in 3 tracks: food hubs, processing centers and marketing.
Registration is now open online. Sponsored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Local Food and Farm Initiative and the Iowa Food System Working Group with Iowa State University Extension, the one-day conference at the Quality Inn at Ames on April 8 will include presentations from successful local food practitioners and advocates.
Keynote speaker Lucie Amundson is the marketing brainchild behind her family's pasture-raised chicken business, Locally Laid. Her social media savvy led Locally Laid to the final four in a national competition for small businesses to earn a 30-second TV spot at the Super Bowl.
Business opportunities focus on locally produced foods
Bill Menner, USDA Rural Development state director, and Kamyar Enshayan, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at University of Northern Iowa, will also give keynote talks. Registration includes lunch, and some need-based scholarship options are available.
Conference coordinator Lynn Heuss says many business opportunities right now focus on local foods. "The one-day conference will look at issues that can impact the bottom line of local food producers and those affiliated businesses, such as the sustainability of food hubs that aggregate supplies, the benefits of processing centers for value-added products, and cutting edge options for marketing," Heuss says.
Also, "There is always plenty of time for networking, and we'll provide a delicious lunch featuring some locally sourced ingredients."
In the conference track on food hubs, participants may learn about different kinds of food hubs and the resources needed to create and sustain them. The processing centers track will cover shared kitchens and kitchen incubators, as well as integrating value-added products from dairy, fresh or frozen processing. The third track for the conference covers marketing strategies including online and institutional opportunities, as well as CSAs and cookery classes.
Price discount for early registration ends March 28
Reduced-price early registration ends on March 28. The conference is geared to general audiences, students and vendors, and will be of interest to small growers, business owners and food service personnel, as well as others who are interested in the growing local food system in Iowa. Contact Lynn Heuss for details, including scholarship application questions, at [email protected].
Other speakers include farmer Penny Brown Huber who will discuss the success of her Marshalltown-based flash-freeze fruit and vegetable packaging plant, Iowa Choice Harvest. The start-up food processing business was established by a handful of central Iowa farmers in 2013, includes 24 member-owners, and is just one example for attendees at the 2014 Iowa Local Food Conference of how to successfully tap into the local community to grow their business.
To match this year's conference focus, speakers from various food processing and local foods businesses will share their ideas on how to approach business expansion and opportunities to increase profitability.
Value-added products, marketing strategies, customer base
Brown Huber will explain the important niche their small network of producers and consumers occupies. "It could build a really dynamic local food system for Iowa," she says, noting that their products allow consumers, even in the peak of winter, to enjoy food produced in their own neighborhood.
The conference will include refreshments and lunch provided by local farmers, including Craig Griffieon. The Ankeny-based farmer is able to grow sweet corn because Iowa Choice Harvest is close enough to his operation that he can flash-freeze his produce within the day of his harvest for sale throughout the year.
The Iowa Local Foods Conference is sponsored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Local Food and Farm Initiative or LFFI, and the Iowa Food System Working Group of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Keynote speakers include: Lucie Amundsen of the pasture-raised chicken business, Locally Laid; USDA Rural Development state director for Iowa, Bill Menner; and Kamyar Enshayan, director of University of Northern Iowa's Center for Energy and Environmental Education.
Vendors can set up booths at the conference for a fee of $100. Follow the link to find additional conference details, in addition to the schedule and speaker line-up. Contact Lynn Heuss for other information, including some scholarship application options.